US investment firm buys 70% stake in Indian edtech startup


The New York-based investment management company, Blackstone Group Inc has bought a majority stake in Bengaluru-based online digital skilling platform Simplilearn.

The investment company has secured a 70% stake for Rs 1,860 crore. It will provide an exit to the existing investors by buying out their 60% stake and 10% from promoters.

India’s edtech space is currently witnessing exponential growth, as the pandemic urging the need for online education delivery, and the necessity for a variety of digital skills and certifications.

Blackstone has $112 billion in corporate PE assets under management (AUM), has $50 billion of AUM in India so far, including in IT firm Mphasis and Piramal Glass. Furthermore, it is also an investor in edtech player Aakash Educational Services, which was lately acquired by Byju’s for nearly $1 billion.

Blackstone has added edtech firms to its global portfolio, including Ascend Learning, which provides software and solutions for vocational education, Ellucian, a software provider to global universities, and Articulate, a SaaS platform for corporate training.

Simplilearn would use the new funds to expand into the US and Europe and form partnerships with global universities. This would include doubling employee strength to 3,000, from the current 1,500, over the next 12-18 months. Also, the company is planning to buy back employee stock options that would benefit nearly 100 employees.

Simplilearn was started by Krishna Kumar in 2009 as a blog to share information and tips on project management for aspirants. Today, the platform offers more than 100 programs to help early to mid-career professionals acquire skills across technology, data science, AI & machine learning, digital marketing, cybersecurity, and project management.

The company offers courses in partnership with top global universities like MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Caltech CTME, Purdue Online, and IIT Kanpur, and companies such as IBM, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon.

As of now, the startup almost has two lakh paid users and its free learning platform SkillUp aims to onboard five million users by 2023. The SkillUp platform offers learners access to over 1,000 hours of learning and tech skilling programs that cover over 600 in-demand skills.